Opinion about Monica Lewinsky has not improved much since the late 90s, though Americans seem to have forgiven Bill Clinton
More than 15 years ago, Monica Lewinsky became one of the most infamous – and vilified – women in American history. Her recent appearance in Vanity Fair was meant to improve her image and reintroduce her to America in a much more positive light than the portrayal she received in the 1998 and 1999 coverage of her relationship with then-President Bill Clinton. Clinton was impeached by the GOP-controlled House of Representatives, but acquitted in the Senate. He served out his term and is now a popular ex-President.
Monica Lewinsky, meanwhile, is still disliked. in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll more than twice as many Americans view her unfavorably as favorably. She gets little sympathy from any demographic group. Even those who aware of the Vanity Fair story view her unfavorably—also by more than two to one.
And just as in those years, women are much more negative than men. 28% of men, and just 14% of women view Lewinsky favorably today. However, there has been some improvement. In a CBS News Poll conducted in January 1999, opinions were even more negative about Lewinsky than they are today: six times as many people then had unfavorable views of Lewinsky as had favorable ones. In that poll, only 9% were favorable towards Lewinsky, 55% were not.
Today, only a third express any sympathy for Lewinsky, while two out of three have little or none. Again, women are much less sympathetic than men are.
There is a lot of affection for former President Bill Clinton. Clinton’s approval rating rose during the impeachment and trial, but his favorability ratings were mixed. Today, most Americans view Clinton favorably. And even though former First Lady and Senator Hillary Clinton may be running for President next year, making assessments of her extremely partisan, she fares better than most other possible 2016 contenders, both Democratic and Republican.
Lewinsky gets some professional support. In the Vanity Fair article, Lewinsky talks about the difficulties she has encountered in being hired. Notoriety has hurt her job prospects. Would Americans hire her? If she were otherwise qualified, many would. On this, Republicans and Democrats agree, and older adults (those 65 and older) are the most likely to say they would hire Lewinsky. However, (once again), men are much more willing than women to do so.
From Lewinsky to Benghazi
In the long run, Americans view the Clinton/Lewinsky affair as not a particularly serious scandal. More than half describe it as of “very little importance” to the nation, although most Republicans say it was least of “some importance.” But when compared with Watergate, Iran-Contra and the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal shrinks in importance. More than two in three rank Clinton-Lewinsky as the least serious scandal; just 8% say it was the most serious.
Even Republicans agree. Although most Republican Representatives voted to impeach Clinton and most GOP Senators voted to convict and remove him from office, Republicans today agree that Clinton/Lewinsky ranks as the least serious scandal.
Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.